Brazil: Congressional Committee Votes to Impeach President


Brazil’s congressional impeachment committee has voted to send a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff to the House of Representatives’ floor, placing her one step closer to being ousted. The leftist Rousseff’s Workers’ Party is planning rallies in her favor, with police anticipating the nation’s capital will attract thousands of protests for and against the president.

The committee voted 38 to 27 to bring the impeachment to a complete lower chamber vote. The legislative chamber’s majority leader, Eduardo Cunha, has told the O Globo newspaper that he expected the vote to be completed on Sunday, with deliberation to begin Friday. O Globo notes that details of how to conduct the vote remain to be determined, and how members of minority parties will vote will depend on the momentum for impeachment that may or may not build in the legislature.

Cunha is a member of the Democratic Movement Party of Brazil (PMDB), a left-wing party that was once part of the ruling coalition under Rousseff. Vice President Michel Temer, who would take over for Rousseff should the vote eventually pass in the Senate after the House votes, is a member of the party. The party voted last month to abandon the ruling coalition, freeing legislators to vote for impeachment. They have not ordered the legislators to vote for impeachment, however, leaving them to vote their conscience.

Brazil’s law enforcement is expecting thousands to convene before the legislative building in Brasilia to protest in favor and against impeachment. Bloomberg reports that 3,000 police and thousands more National Guard troops will descend on the city to keep the dueling factions from violence. The anti-Rousseff Facebook group, Bloomberg notes, has attracted 173,000 people, saying they will attend the protest, “similar to the number of people who signed up for demonstrations a week before the March 13 protests, which ultimately attracted over 3 million people nationwide.”

Leftist protesters have in the past infiltrated anti-Rousseff protests and attacked those attending. The March 13 pro-impeachment protests were almost entirely peaceful.

Rousseff is facing impeachment over the passage of executive orders that some protest may have violated financial laws. Her national approval ratings have plummeted in relation to a separate scandal, however: a billion-dollar embezzlement scheme known as “Operation Car Wash” in Brazil, in which Workers’ Party officials were overcharging on projects by the state oil corporation, Petrobras, to line their pockets. While Rousseff has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case, she was minister of energy while the alleged scheme was running, and many of her close political allies have been implicated in the matter.

Among them is her predecessor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been questioned over the use of state funds to allegedly purchase a beachfront property. Da Silva denies all wrongdoing and can no longer be prosecuted because Rousseff appointed him her chief of staff shortly after police began questioning him. Following his appointment, federal judge Sergio Moro released audio of a conversation between the two that seemed to indicate Rousseff had planned to appoint him a minister to grant him executive immunity should law enforcement begin investigating him for Operation Car Wash.

Da Silva has remained in the public eye, attending a rally with prominent leftist musician Chico Buarque on Monday to encourage Brazilians not to support impeachment and calling the process a “coup.” He dismissed the committee vote: “That does not mean anything. … It is Sunday that we have to be clear.”

At least one person in the ruling government believes the impeachment process might succeed, however: Michel Temer, the vice president. On Monday, Temer leaked parts of a speech intended for his assumption to the Brazilian presidency. The speech called for “the calming of the country, the unification of the country,” and it clearly referenced Rousseff’s ouster. Temer claimed he meant to send parts of the speech to an allied politician privately, but made a mistake and posted it on WhatsApp.